Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Politics In Baseball

As a Detroit Tigers fan since about 1958 we would like to be spending this week considering the pitching staff. Will they bring young phenom Porcello up to the bigs as the 5th starter? Or will one of the trio of Miner, Robertson, or Dontrelle Willis secure that spot behind Verlander, Bonderman, Galarraga, and Jackson? What happens to Willis if he doesn't make the rotation? Or Robertson for that matter. And in the bullpen another young phenom, Ryan Perry seems determined to pitch his way to Detroit.

Or we would like to talk about the non-pitchers. The every day lineup is set but there's a good battle going for the bench jobs. Clevlen, Larish, Thomas? And, does Thames get traded?

Unfortunately geopolitics has crept into the game and it casts a shadow over the Detroit Tigers. Several Tigers are Venezuelan. In fact, four Venezuelans from the Tigers organization are on the national team for their country in the ongoing World Baseball Classic: Magglio Ordonez, Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, and Armando Galarraga.
Venezuela has been playing this past week in Miami and a large contingent in the crowds there have been booing and hooting Magglio endlessly. Most of the folks booing are Venezuelan ex-patriots and Cuban ex-pats who (correctly) despise Hugo Chavez, the Castros, and their thugs.

But why does Magglio get the fan abuse?

Because of this. And this. And this.

So far Ordonez has gotten the brunt of the booing although Carlos Guillen is seen here having fun with the dictator. And, by the way, Ozzie Guillen, manager of the White Sox is, apparently, a Chavista.
This troubles many Tigers fans. We just want to watch ballgames and not have politics creep into it but, thanks to the WBC, it's there now. Will it carry over into the regular season?

One sure way to make any controversy go away is more of this.

It's important to realize something. These guys all go back to Venezuela in the off-season. They have family there year-round too. As wealthy, high-visibility, baseball stars they all are in contact with Chavez or his minions. None of us knows the kind of pressure on them to be supportive of the regime. Certainly if they were outspoken opponents of Hugo there would be problems for them. So, we don't really know how much they are Chavista and how much they are going along to get along. Still, in the case of Magglio, it looks like more than the bare minimum of support. And he does say the best of the revolution is still to come...